One of my favorite parts of being a face to face student was the social interaction component. I always met a variety of interesting and exciting people while in my undergraduate classes and I always had someone that I could talk to and interact with. When I became an online student, I thought that there was no way that I would have any social interaction with others since I was 2,000 miles away from other students. As it turns out, this could not have been further from the truth!
What I didn’t immediately realize as an online MBA student was that the dreaded group projects that I had hated throughout my undergraduate career were still required, even in an online setting. While in hindsight this wasn’t terribly surprising, what surprised me the most about being an online student was the strong relationships that I was able to build with other students in the online environment, specifically with those in my groups for group projects.
Instead of face to face meetings, my teammates and I were constantly speaking to each other via email, text, group chat platforms like GroupMe or Google Hangouts, and even through social media. Most of my peers were working full-time like I was so we had to be creative with how we interacted. This constant interaction, and knowing that everyone else was fighting extremely hard to balance work, life, and school, created a sense of responsibility amongst teammates to complete their work. While there was still the occasional slacker here and there, I was fortunate to have many wonderful teammates.
In addition to teammates, my program has a social media presence that helped me create relationships with others. The Facebook page for our program allows students to ask for advice or assistance, provide tips and tricks to others, and even share personal victories/fears with all students in the program. It is a great way to meet like-minded individuals and I am amazed by the level of positive interaction that goes on on that page. There is a strong sense of camaraderie and support from other students.
I was extremely surprised that being an online student did not deter me from making friends or networking. In fact, some of the relationships I created in my MBA program are stronger than the relationships made during my undergraduate degree. I am still in contact with a number of students that I met in the program, despite having graduated almost a year ago.
My biggest piece of advice in this regard is don’t be afraid to reach out to other students and make connections. Whether you are an online student, or a face to face student, you can create strong relationships. Online gives you the advantage of making connections all across the country (in some cases, the world) and industries. While you have to be a willing to make an effort, if you do, it will pay off in the long run.